Jeff Jonas

2016: the year of the
cheap embedded Linux system
and IoT

This is more of a roundup than a product review.

Digikey now stocks Adafruit, Sparkfun and other "hobbyist" items, as does Micro Center
There are more kickstarters than ever before.
Innovation is everywhere!

SEE ALSO: my list of kits and videos from my 2017 Philcon MAKER panel

UPDATE: June 2018: The Future of Single Board Computers (YouTube video) by ExplainingComputers

the top embedded Linux systems

The Raspberry Pi is the clear winner with several formats, price points, great support and acceptance
There are plenty of Raspberry Pi clones but they are nowhere as well supported:

other embedded Linux systems that are very popular and successful:

The BeagleBone Black and BeagleBone Green are embraced by the BSD community.
Sept 2018 UPDATE:
The $9 Next Thing CHIP module and the $69 Pocket Chip
were very popular in the retro-gaming arena
June 2017 UPDATE:
Discontinued Maker & Innovator Products
Intel has discontinued The Intel Edison Compute Module was heavily promoted at IoT Hack-a-thons.
It is usually paired with a breakout board for Arduino shields.
Citing wikipedia:
The Intel Galileo Development Board was nowhere as well promoted. Galileo Gen 2 datasheet

IoT modules

The $3.00 gumstick-sized ESP8266 WiFi Module and the newer ESP32 Wi-Fi & dual-mode Bluetooth module
were intended to be just a TOE (TCP offload engine) but the ARM core is programmable enough to work stand-alone.
The main variation in breakout boards is the number of I/O pins.
Learn more at The Sonoff wifi switch module is a ready to use ESP8266 with relay and power supply.

UPDATE: here's an open source competitor to the ESP: lininoOS:
A MIPS GNU/Linux box for Arduino and Internet of Everything.
Combining the Linux OS with IoE HW + certified WiFi 802.11n connectivity and use OpenWRT and Peer-to-Peer (AllJoyn software framework) to customize your own project. The product hopes to make an open source WiFi home automation seamless and easy to understand for all levels of technology users.

other educational microcontrollers

Embedded Operating Systems

Various Linux distros target embedded systems
but there are alternatives:

hacker spaces

Hack Manhattan (137 W 14th St) holds affordable workshops

new parallel architectures

UPDATE: the nvidia Jetson AI supercomputer on a module
Jetson TX2 Jetson TX1
GPU NVIDIA Pascal, 256 CUDA cores NVIDIA Maxwell, 256 CUDA cores
CPU HMP Dual Denver 2/2 MB L2 +
Quad ARM A57/2 MB L2
Quad ARM A57/2 MB L2
Video 4K x 2K 60 Hz Encode (HEVC)
4K x 2K 60 Hz Decode (12-Bit Support)
4K x 2K 30 Hz Encode (HEVC)
4K x 2K 60 Hz Decode (10-Bit Support)
Memory 8 GB 128 bit LPDDR4
59.7 GB/s
4 GB 64 bit LPDDR4
25.6 GB/s

The Parallella Board (video is here)

network flow processors by
The Parallax 8 core Propeller-1 is open source,
popular for robotics and the Open-source Hackable Electronic Badge

And a time of silly names for expansion boards

DISCLAIMER: these are systems that I have, have encountered or are related to them.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of production embedded systems by companies big and small.
Journals such as Circuit Cellar cover them as articles or advertisers.

updated July 6, 2021